Playing the Numbers

By: Chaunte McClure

While some of you were trying to figure out the winning numbers for the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot last month, I dreamed of what I’d do with the money if I won. Oh, I’d pay off every bill we owe, invest in a new home and other real estate and, of course, save, save, save. I never dreamed of which numbers I’d choose because of greater importance to me the numbers are displaying on my brand-spanking new wrist blood pressure monitor.

I don’t even play the lottery and I decided not to gamble with my health after being diagnosed with hypertension in July.

I went to the doctor for unrelated symptoms and as soon as the doctor walked in he asked, “What’s going on with your blood pressure?”

I had no idea. I would normally blame my high numbers on the stress of seminary, but that was two months behind me and at the time, I didn’t have much work stress.

My doctor asked me to monitor my blood pressure for 10 days, then come back and he’d decide if I need a prescription.

I hate taking medicine. I mean, really hate it.

It was easy to start my on-again, off-again relationship with morning or evening walks. I was determined to do whatever it took to get my number down, but nothing worked – at least not immediately.

I borrowed a blood pressure monitor and every time I checked, my numbers were still too high.

I recorded these numbers: 162/ 99, 141/105, 135/95, 157/107. (The optimal numbers are 120/80 or less.)

Sure, anxiety contributed to some of that because I kept thinking about a first cousin who died of a stroke less than two years ago and he was only about 35 years old. Just a few months later, one of my aunts suffered a stroke. Then I remembered Granddaddy had at least three strokes. That’s enough to send anyone into a tizzy.

I decided not to wait the ten days and go to my family doctor before the worst happens. I got an appointment within a week of my previous doctor’s visit. I was expecting exactly what I was told. After sharing my family history, the doctor said, “I’m going to put you on a blood pressure medication.”

I had to ask, “How long do you think I’ll be on the medication?”

He said, “For the rest of your life.” (Insert eyes emoji here!)

That’s not what I wanted to hear and honestly, I thought, “That’s what you think, doc.” I was about to put my faith into overdrive when the truth of the matter is I need to listen to my doctor.

If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure or if your doctor has asked you to monitor your numbers, please, listen to your doctor.

High blood pressure affects your health, leading to stroke, heart attack, or kidney disease.

Get into the habit of checking your BP at home or at a local pharmacy. Your life is worth it.

Strengthening Saturday: A New Addition to My Toolbox

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

“It was great! No cleaning, no responsibilities and no guilt. Just rest and relaxation.” That’s how I described a recent overnight stay at a health facility following a vocal cord procedure to my friend/counselor/life coach, Nancy.

Recently, we talked about how I could replicate that without having to go to the hospital. Twenty minutes later, I’d devised “Strengthening Saturday,” one day each month dedicated to rest, renewal, rejuvenation and refreshment. (If only Saturday started with an R!)

Following are the terms of “Strengthening Saturday:”

  • Designate the fourth Saturday of each month as Strengthening Saturday. (That week is usually a busy one for me each month.)
  • Sleep until I wake up; maybe go back to sleep even then.
  • Have no “to do” list for that day; only do the things I want to do including, but not limited to, watching Netflix; creating something; reading; and/or catching up on my writing.  
  • Unless there is something I WANT to do outside of the house and need to be presentable, stay in my PJs or lounging clothes all day.
  • Eat foods that are low-prep and healthy. Unless I want something sinful, which I’ll totally allow during a Strengthening Saturday.
  • No social media allowed. (Lumosity and Words with Friends, yes; Facebook and Twitter, no.)
  • Tell Mom and Sister not to include me in any plans on a Strengthening Saturday.
  • Maximize my senses. Play music I love or listen to a podcast; have some flowers or other beautiful thing in my room; light a candle; take a long hot bubble bath or freshen my bed clothes; eat wonderful food; cuddle with the cats; etc.
  • Will put the guilt of not “being busy” aside, just for one day.

As I continue to grow, build and yes, even still heal a little, I think Strengthening Saturdays will be a game changer. I can’t wait for the first one!

I’ll Take the Magic Pill Please

By: Azure Stilwell

I received an e-mail today asking about the status of my next blog post. I had no idea it was that time of month again. I cannot remember anything right now…

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I do electro-current therapy (ECT) treatments once a week and it is killing my short-term memory. I couldn’t even remember who my dentist was the other day or where our local Publix is. I go to check the mail and there are bills in the mailbox for companies I don’t remember having services with until my husband reminds me. I can’t wait for the treatments to be over. I want to be able to drive again. I want my life back. I want my memories back.

I spend every day wondering what happened to me. When did I stop laughing, smiling, finding joy in life? When did I become so depressed? I want to wake up and not have the first thing I think of be, “Is today going to be a good day?” I stopped going to church. This Easter was the first time I’ve been back to church in months. I’m trying a new church, one that I hope I will be able to get more involved in. I need something to grab onto and feel good about. This seems like a logical answer.

I am still taking my normal medications but I feel like that needs changing, too. In fact, I feel like everything needs changing. My home, my medications, my daily routine. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I want to move back home to Augusta. But when I visit, my problems seem to follow me so I know that isn’t truly the answer that I seek. I just want a magic pill that makes everything go back to the way it was before I got so sad. I hope that my next blog post (if I can remember when that is) will be about something other than mental illness, but this is what I am struggling with today so bear with me.

Are You Exhausted?

By: Shannon Boatwright

I’m exhausted. I’m so tired, it hurts. Why is this? I ask myself all the time, why does it seem that I’m always so worn out physically and mentally? It’s that time of year for me, when my world is rocked by deadlines, school requirements, performances,…some of my greatest career accomplishments tend to happen during this time of the year, so yes, I’m overwhelmed and overworked. But after so many years of feeling this way, I’m beginning to get really frustrated about it. Is it just the fact that I’m a teacher? Or is it just me? Is it because I’m an over-achiever?

sleepless_every-woman-blog

I have a terrible time sleeping. I literally cannot shut my brain off. I don’t take medication to sleep, and I probably should, but I’d really rather not! I’m sure if I could actually get good, restful sleep and a decent amount of it, I’d feel so much better! But heaven forbid I actually be able to achieve that. Most unfortunately, a good night’s sleep is totally foreign to me these days.  I live in constant fear that I’ll get sick because I know my body and mind need rest. But I’m stumped when it comes to figuring out the right formula to actually achieve this.

So I decided to do some research. A healthy living article in the Huffington Post called “How To Shut Your Brain Off When You Just Can’t Sleep,” by Shelby Freedman Harris, Psy.D. gives several tips for those of us with an overactive mind. The problem is, I’m not so sure these tips can or will work for me. For example, one of the tips is to “not worry in bed.” Yea, um, not an option for me! I’m a mother, a teacher, a wife…worry is something I will never be able to get rid of. I try not to let it rule my world, of course, but worrying is a fact of my life. The article suggests that when you can’t calm the worries that plague your mind, to get out of bed. Getting up and going to another room, doing a simple chore, etc may help someone else realize how sleepy they are and enable them to go back to bed and actually sleep, but I guarantee you that WILL NOT work for me! Not only would that wake up the pets and truly give me more to deal with, but if I get up out of bed and start doing something, my body will think it’s time to get stuff done! Sadly, that is a technique that will not work for me in my circumstances.

On a plus side, the article mentions “mental imagery.” Now this is something I do try to attempt when I can’t shut my brain off. They say there’s a reason why people say to count sheep. Something about the repetitive, soothing nature of it. I’m not a math person, so that would just aggravate me, but I do like to use visualization. So I’ll try to envision myself getting a massage or floating on a cloud, or lounging weightless in a glorious, hot tub. Sometimes I am able to actually do this and it helps me get back to sleep. Yet sometimes I work so hard trying to focus on relaxing imagery that my brain engages and leads me to other thoughts that keep me awake. Though it doesn’t always work, it’s definitely worth a try!

They say to write things down, create your to-do list so that you don’t engage in “unproductive worry.” I am a to-do list maker, something major! And, fortunately, this past year, I have found my go-to solution for helping me remember to do things. In addition to hand written to-do lists, I create alarms on my phone to remind me of things that I need to accomplish, whether it’s a simple daily task or something major. That alarm going off on my phone is my little savior at helping me not to fret about forgetting to do something on my list. And I don’t have some annoying alarm noise go off, I use a song that will make me smile or do a little dance as I’m reminded of what I need to do. My family, students and fellow teachers know that if they hear a song start randomly playing from my pocket, there must be something Shannon needs to do. It’s funny, but hey, it helps!

sleeplessI wish I had the time and energy to create an official daily wind-down, decompression time that could allow me to engage in some honest relaxation, distancing me from worries and to-do’s, but some days I don’t have the energy to make that bubble bath. Sadly, sometimes I think of a soak in a bath as more work ‘cause I’d have to prep and clean the tub and in the end, use up more time that I could’ve/should’ve just been in bed sleeping. Pathetic, I know. Ever feel like you put yourself in a position where you just can’t seem to win? Yea, me too.

There are many tips and techniques to help one get better sleep, ranging from drinking a warm glass of milk to turning off the TV and any other stimulating gadgets. I’m a firm believer that the TV should be off and the room dark and calm, but… and yes, another BUT…some days when I have had a really tough, stressful day, I need that TV on, at least for a bit. Watching something light and fluffy can help keep my mind off the stress, so that I
can indeed eventually get some sleep instead of letting the stress consume me. That’s what good stories, whether from a book, magazine, the television, etc., are wonderful for – helping us escape! I could write page after page of tips and techniques. Ha! I wish I had the time and energy to do so, but who am I kidding, my phone alarm has already been playing a Bruno Mars song repeatedly, reminding me of yet another thing I must accomplish on my fat to-do list.

So what are the techniques that work for you? After doing my research, I know that I’ve got to make more of an effort to get more exercise, create a solid routine for winding down at the end of the day and some way, somehow find more ways to simply relax. If I ever figure out the winning equation for shutting my brain off at night, I’ll definitely share. In the meantime, please do share what works for you. It might just be something that could actually help create some zzz’s for us overactive brainiacs!

Here are some links with more info on how to get better sleep.

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/how-to-sleep-better.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/23/shut-off-brain-cant-sleep_n_5161774.html

http://www.youbeauty.com/life/habits-for-better-sleep/

Not Official Until There’s a Bracelet

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Recently, I wrote about my 2017 word of the year: Simplify. Am I complicating things by adding one more to the mix? Because while I am trying to keep my life simple, the thing I balance_every woman blogneed to work on even more is BALANCE.

As I approach the two year anniversary of my ruptured aneurysm – which I call the two year anniversary of my survival – my energy seems to be coming back in bounds. When I have a day with great energy, it’s hard not to take on too much. I can write a list of at least 50 things I need to do, but have to keep in mind that I can’t always accomplish it all in a day or a weekend. I have to prioritize with balance in mind.

Take, for instance, this coming weekend. I have supper club, a band party and church. But those are only scheduled events. I also want to cook for the week ahead, take a long walk, straighten the house (kitchen, bathroom and basement, in that order), work on my finances and get caught up on This Is Us. And, and I really need to wash clothes. What I’m learning is that I can’t do it all, even in a weekend. My energy is coming back, but I still need to rest and relax.

So I’m doing some refining of my list by way of this post:

  • Saturday evening Supper Club is a must. We’re going out, so I don’t have to clean or cook. And it’s much needed time with friends.
  • The band party is a wait-and-see. It’s an event for The Animal Mission, and a band featuring a couple of friends is playing. I don’t get to hear them play much anymore, and it’s a short set. Still, with my voice issues, clubs aren’t my best venue.
  • Church is a given. It inspires me for the week ahead, gives me a chance to see friends and gets me up and out. The service isn’t until 11:15 a.m., so I can still sleep in or get up early to get started on the cooking.
  • Cooking for the week ahead has been on my list for a few weeks now. I generally don’t do it on weeknights because I go to the gym after work, and time is already tight. For me to eat healthier, I seriously need to do this. Which means…
  • …Straightening the kitchen becomes a higher priority. There’s no way to accomplish this without at least clearing the counters, making some room in the ‘fridge and switching out the dishes. The bathroom and basement are medium priority, because I need to get a plumber out soon to work on a few projects.
  • The long walk is creating issues in my mind. I’d hoped to walk to the park and Trader Joe’s like I did before the rupture. But I don’t want to wear myself out and ruin my other plans. Maybe I can do it Sunday afternoon or evening, when it’s okay to be worn out. It might even help me sleep longer and a little better.
  • Working on my finances is easy. I can do that on my laptop in bed Saturday morning. Or even tonight.
  • This Is Us. It’s on Netflix now, and I’ve heard so many good things about it. I usually don’t turn on the TV on weeknights because it distracts me and prevents me from getting a full night of sleep. While I’m excited it’s on Netflix now, that doesn’t mean I have to watch it all on one day. This is definitely not a priority, and I may start watching (aka NOT binge watching) next week.
  • Washing clothes. A job that’s never done. I miss the days that I took everything to the dry cleaner, but my bank account doesn’t. Maybe instead of shooting for everything, I can do laundry based on priority, i.e. what I need for the week ahead.

Boom. I’ve created a simple solution for the weekend that includes plenty of balance of those things Maslow told us were important. I’ll let you know how it goes.

So what’s up with the bracelet headline? I’m a highly visual person; I like visual reminders close to keep me motivated. I have a SIMPLIFY bracelet, but need one for balance. Thus, the addition of a “new word” won’t be official until I get one. Perhaps I need to add THAT to the list.

Is your life “in balance?” What do you do to maintain a balance in your life? What do you need to work on?

Is Your Ideal Daily Routine Achievable?

By: Shannon Boatwright

hmmm-a-long-walk-everyday-sounds-so-lovely

I recently read an article in the September 2016 issue of Readers Digest. It completely fascinated me and well, frustrated me. The article is titled “The Daily Routines of Geniuses,” written by Sarah Green Carmichael from the Harvard Business Review. She talks about how she has spent her life searching for the ideal daily routine and how a book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work fascinated her. She shares all of these fabulous tidbits of information about artists’ daily habits… artists ranging from Jane Austin to Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Beethoven, Ernest Hemingway, Arthur Miller, Mozart, Andy Warhol and Picasso. She’s right, “the routines of these thinkers are strangely compelling.” Many of them took daily walks, sometimes for up to three hours! And that was part of their daily routine, part of what helped provide inspiration and rejuvenation for their inner spirit, their mindset, their physical wellbeing, for their talents.

It is compelling indeed, mostly because I cannot imagine ever having the time to take long walks like these late greats did, much less do it daily! Many of these genius minds would spend their mornings engaging in their main talent, whether painting, writing, composing, etc, then they’d spend the afternoon doing “busywork.” As I read the article, the entire time I couldn’t stop thinking, yea that was THEN! Way back then when there were no constant, overwhelming sources of communication and interruptions of everyday modern life. No emails, texts, distracting Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram photos… no absurd job requirements, work hours, traffic, endless bills… I could go on and on. But let’s face it, way back in the day, life was flat out simpler.

I’ve written in the past about one of my mantras, which is Carpe Diem… Seize the Day! I do my best in this modern day and age to seize my days, making the very best of them. It’s not always easy and some days it seems near impossible. So I must admit that when I think of the days when some of our famous artistic idols lived and created, there is a part of me that is incredibly jealous of the time they had to focus on their physical, mental and artistic well-being. Now, I know some of them worked better in other circumstances and under certain influences, but the daily routines of so many of our late greats truly were what we would call a luxury nowadays. I start to think… how could I actually achieve that kind of time? Time in my daily life that would allow me to take long walks and rejuvenate my body inside and out. When I really think about it, I’m dumbfounded! I figure I’d either have to win the lottery or become a really well-off retiree. Or I’d have to never sleep. And I promise you, getting no sleep is not a possible part of my life if I want to actually stay alive.

So how do we conquer the modern day nonsense that keeps so many of us from living that dream-daily-routine, blessed life? What would be your ideal daily routine? Quite honestly, in this very moment, I’m so exhausted from a long day teaching, among many other things, my mind is mush and I just don’t even know where to begin to answer that question for myself. Maybe a super long, relaxing walk would do the trick. If only I didn’t have to get up in a few hours when my alarm goes off way too early tomorrow morning.

10 Things I Hate About You, Anxiety

By: Leah Prescott

23388685185_13243c6afa_o1) I hate that my personality is often stifled by my inner anxiety monster.

2) I hate that anxiety drains me so much, physically and mentally.

3) I hate that anxiety makes even the little things feel insurmountable.

4) I hate that anxiety keeps me from seeing reality.

5) I hate that anxiety eats away at my confidence.

6) I hate that anxiety causes me to miss out on important events.

7) I hate that anxiety causes my guilt to outweigh my joy.

8) I hate that my anxiety might be passed along to my children.

9) I hate that anxiety separates me from people that I love.

10) I hate that anxiety is such a part of me that I cannot ever totally let it go.

 

If you experience any of the above symptoms on a regular basis, you may want to talk with your doctor. Below are resources for additional information about anxiety disorders:

Women’s Health – Anxiety Disorders

National Institute of Mental Health – Anxiety Disorders

WebMD – Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center